Review Detail

9.2 3 10
Pennsylvania August 28, 2007 16248
Penn 2014 Visiting Student - Now graduating resident
(Updated: January 24, 2020)
Overall rating
Staff Surgeons
Operating Experience
Clinical Experience
Overall Experience
Addendum: I ended up matching at Penn and want to update based on my experience here over the past 5 years. I would certainly do it again. Things have changed a lot since 2014. We have every sub-specialty covered, from pre-eminent attendings in tumor to the top pediatric ortho hospital in the country, to the autonomous experience at VA, and of course exceptional trauma, joints, hand, sports, shoulder experience.

I would certainly come here again. It has everything you would need from an academic perspective as well as clinical training, to set you up for private or academic career. We now utilize a night float system, so the days of operating until rounds the next day are gone. We have a standardized experience, with everyone going through the same rotations, so no competing for the best rotations amongst residents.

Overall, the program has a softer reputation than it once did. I had heard concerns from applicants when I was applying about malignancy within the program. I think this is from generations prior. Our current cohort get along well, but we do expect hard work out of the juniors and a good attitude. While there is a big name attached to the program, it definitely has a blue collar feel.

There are certainly no deficiencies in the training here, and I have no reservations about having lived in Philadelphia. While I was apprehensive before moving here, it has truly been an amazing (and relatively affordable) 5 years in a city with a lot going on and extremely livable on a resident salary. The food scene here is phenomenal, far beyond just the cheesesteaks that most people ask about.

Would choose it again in a heartbeat

Program Review

Staff / Faculty / Chairman
I rotated on the trauma service, so my interaction was with the trauma staff: Drs. Mehta, Ahn, Donegan, Esterhai. All the faculty I worked with were highly knowledgeable and happy to teach, especially at morning conference and in clinic. Drs. Mehta and Ahn are well-known in the orthopedic trauma community. The faculty expect a lot out of you, but I was told repeatedly that it did not matter what faculty thought of me, they based their opinion of who to select for their program based on the opinions of the residents. I met briefly with Dr. Levin, the department chair. He was straightforward and friendly. According to the residents he knows everyone in orthopedics throughout the country and does a good job of getting residents into fellowship where they want to go by picking up the phone and making a call for them.

If you rotate on trauma you will likely ask Dr. Mehta for a letter of recommendation (which is written jointly by Dr. Donegan, Dr. Ahn, and Dr. Mehta). He is extremely direct during your end of rotation meeting. Since the rotation does not require submission of grades (this is true as of my rotation in 2014), he asks you off the bat what your board scores are, what your grades are, what your regional preferences are, then talks about what the residents thought of you. He is funny, but can be intimidating as he expects so much of his residents and the students.
Didactics / Teaching
As a visiting student on trauma we have fracture conference Monday, Trauma conference Tuesday, Sports conference Wednesday, Grand rounds Thursday, no conference Friday. I was told students are not called on during these conferences and this was the case for me, except for once by a resident when there were no attendings present. You will also meet one-on-one with Dr. Ahn for didactics on a joint of your choosing where he will ask you to draw an AP and lateral radiograph of a joint of your choosing and then you will talk in depth about the joint for an hour. I found this to be a little nerve-racking, but it was actually extremely educational, and as long as you study ahead of time, you can get a lot out of it that you won’t find in Netter’s. The residents are all exceptional about teaching, often taken time before and after cases to discuss various topics related to what you saw or what you will see, in a low-stakes setting.
Operating Experience
On trauma, I was amazed at the independence of the operative level residents. The intern and second year residents cover the floor and consults, with little OR exposure. However, once you enter PGY3, one trauma room is staffed by the PGY3 & PGY5 and the other is staffed solely by the PGY4. In the PGY3 room the PGY5 acts as the attending and the PGY3 takes the lead on the case. Depending on the time of year and the complexity of the case the attending may just stop in at a critical moment, but the residents pretty much run the show. Apparently this independence is not the same outside of the trauma service and some of the other specialists are much more hands on by the attending.
Clinic Experience
Dr. Mehta runs a VERY busy clinic, which provides the student with a wide variety of interesting cases to see. After the first clinic he allows you to see patients on your own and present. If you want to come off as helpful, some of the residents commented on how nice it was to have EMR access and write preliminary notes on patients that Dr. Mehta could then sign during his patient evaluation. I thought clinic was a great opportunity to formulate plans for patients and show your basic understanding of orthopedics. Dr. Donegan and Dr. Ahn’s clinics are not as busy as Dr. Mehta’s and they have more time to spend discussing each patient you see.
Research Opportunities
Everyone does research here and I was told the opportunities “fall into your lap” starting during intern year. These include everything from basic bench research to translational studies to pure clinical work. There is no shortage of research opportunities and residents seemed to be provided with a number of chances to publish and travel to conferences.
I can only speak to the trauma team, which was made up of a PGY5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and another PGY2 at night. This team was awesome. Everyone here gets along well and all the residents have a great sense of humor, which I appreciate. The interactions between the seniors and juniors were very good, people generally respected each other. Even more obvious was the interactions between Dr. Mehta and the residents, which appeared to be very friendly. I did notice that they value hard work and putting in your share of long hours at this program, and occasionally would talk about other residents if they seemed to be acting lazy or if they were hesitant to answer questions in conference.
My view of the residents’ lifestyle is likely skewed by the fact that I was on trauma, the most intense rotation. The hours were pretty ridiculous, when Dr. Mehta was operating we repeatedly were in the OR until very late, as he has so many cases, many of which are highly complex. I was told that lifestyle on other rotations is better, with more regular hours.
Location / Housing
I had never been to Philadelphia and was very happy with the UPenn area. A lot of the residents live downtown in Center City, about 15-20 blocks from the hospital. I stayed in University City, where the hospital was, but this was a bit noisy, as I was just across from two bars. Housing costs seem equivalent to most big cities, slightly more affrodable compared with Boston, New York, etc. Many of the residents are married, and several of the older residents have children. There is plenty to do in town, lots of bars, restaurants, a great running/biking trail along the river, museums, etc. Philadelphia was safer than I imagined it would be, there are many UPenn security guards that patrol University City and I felt comfortable riding my bike home in the middle of the night.
Can’t think of too many limitations. I was told it is an “old school” type of program. However, since they instituted the PGY2 night float system, the residents say things are not as bad. On trauma at least, the PGY3, 4, 5 stayed until all cases were finished, which can take a toll if you don’t enjoy late nights.
Overall Rotation Experience / Conclusion
I really loved it here. The people were great, the hospital is huge and gets a lot of trauma and a wide variety of cases. The program has a lot of opportunity for education and research and there is a good team atmosphere. This program will definitely be at the top of my list.


I rotated as a medical student at this program
Date of Rotation
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